Perspectives without Privileges: The Estates in Hegel's Political Philosophy

Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (3):469-490 (2017)
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For a variety of reasons, Hegel's theory of the estates remains an unexpected and unappreciated feature of his practical philosophy. In fact, it is the key element of his social philosophy, which grounds his more properly political philosophy. Most fundamentally, it plays this role because the estates provide the forms of visibility required by Hegel's distinctive theory of self-determination, and so the estates constitute conditions for the possibility of human agency as such. With respect to political agency in particular, this ramifies into the view that the estates are social preconditions for legal and political practices, forms of political participation in their own right, and conditions of possibility of moderate government (three functions also attributed to the estates by Montesquieu).
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